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A maverick, period!


As "Parineeta" opens this Friday, Vidhu Vinod Chopra speaks about the making of the film based on Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's classic.

For me, bringing to contemporary India an idea that is valid almost 100 years after it was penned is fascinating. Vinod Chopra

In the City of Joy: "Parineeta" is a rare Bollywood film to be shot in Kolkata.

Conventional has never been the word for Vidhu Vinod Chopra. This Friday Vinod is taking us back in time with Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's classic "Parineeta." Apart from producing the film, Vinod has adapted the novel to a screenplay and the maverick says it has taken him two-and-a-half years. It's not the first time, though. He did it with the flourish of a painter in "1942 - A Love Story", a good decade before Bollywood saw a trend in period films.

"Well `Parineeta' is not my idea. It's really Sarat Chandra 's Chattopadhyay's idea. I read it when I was a kid. It's a fascinating novel, one of the best he has ever written. And for me something to do to bring to contemporary India and contemporary world, an idea which is valid almost 100 years after it was penned, that's fascinating."

The setting

Written in 1914, the man has brought the idea to the `60s. Why not today, when the idea - the differences in the perception of love and commitment between a man and woman - is still valid?

"I did do the test in `90s. But I thought to do the justice to the great ethic that Sarat Babu wrote it would be appropriate to go back in time slightly. So really going back to `60s is going back in time and yet making it contemporary. It's best of both the worlds. It is new yet old."

The classic has already been adapted in 1953 by Bimal Roy, with Ashok Kumar and Meena Kumari in the lead but Vinod says the thespian's work was never at the back of his mind.

"I actually had not seen the film till I had almost written half the screenplay. I did see the film for reference when I had done half the screenplay and my version is very different."

Cinematic liberty

Adaptations always lead to questions over cinematic liberties. Here too, Raima Sen's character has been extended beyond the novel's pages. Counters Vinod, "Well, it's not cinematic liberty. It's a free adaptation of his book and in the free adaptation it's not the way the book is. Sanjay Dutt's character Girish is also different. It's like the basic idea is the same but a completely new screenplay. "

In a country where "Devdas" finds mass approval and "Bose" bites dust at the box office, Vinod doesn't agree it's easier to woo viewers with fictional heroes of novels rather than real life heroes. "I think a good screenplay is a good screenplay whether it's `Bose', `Gandhi' or `Parineeta'. If it's an entertaining story, it's a screenplay that is tightened, it will work anyway."

Talking about the casting, Vinod says he has gone against the type - be it the newcomer Vidya Balan for the title role or the post modern comic caper Saif Ali Khan in his first period saga. "The selection finally boils down to can you act or you can't act. All we look for is that our actors strive for excellence. And if they are ready to strive for excellence we strive with them. What clicked in Vidya's favour is she is a fine actress. For Saif playing Shekhar was a test, and he is absolutely excellent. As for Sanjay, I believe he can do everything, from `Mission Kashmir' to `Munnabhai'... everything."

"Parineeta" is one of the rare Bollywood films to be shot in Kolkata, as the City of Joy has never been considered cost effective. Vinod agrees, "It was very difficult to shoot there and one of the reason we went there is because the original book is based in Calcutta and to bring in authenticity to what we were doing it was imperative that we go to Kolkata though it was not cost effective, it was lot of trouble, but we did it." Vinod adds a small portion has been shot in Darjeeling as well.

After "Munnabhai... ", here again Vinod has let his baby to be directed by a new comer Pradeep Sarkar, known for his adfilms. "It was not difficult. I never wrote the screenplay in order to direct it. It was always written so that Pradeep Sarkar would direct.

Grooming proteges

Ask him as a producer if he is following the trend of grooming protégés particularly when his last two directorial outings "Kareeb" and "Mission Kashmir" failed to connect with the audience, and Vinod takes umbrage. "Well I never did it because it's the trend. It's because I believe this film should be made. They are close to me and are excellent filmmakers."

He continues, " My confidence is beyond box office failures or hits. I make movie that I believe in. If they work very good. Don't forget that `Munnabhai' was not bought even after it was ready, but that didn't deter me." He promises to return with "Yagna." "I am already in pre-production and shortly I go into shooting."

For now, it's time to take another flight, a flight to Amsterdam where "Parineeta" is premiering at IIFA Awards.

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